Photo Credit: Johan10

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission Approves Historic Final Wolf Restoration and Management Plan

By Dave Shaffer

This morning, 3 May, during the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission Meeting, after more than two years of work, the Commissioners unanimously approved the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan. This final approval clears the way for CPW biologists to introduce wolves in the Western Slope area and meet the voter-approved deadline of reintroduction by December 31, 2023.

However, I’d like to remind everyone this “voter-approved” wolf reintroduction was authorized by Colorado’s Proposition 114 which just barely passed by a margin of 50.91% to 49.09%.  

If you’re interested, the CPW News release “Parks and Wildlife Commission Approves Historic Final Wolf Restoration and Management Plan Per the Will of Colorado Voters” provides details on what was discussed & approved.

In short, today’s approval process took a couple of hours as they began with a long and drawn-out review of everything that’s been done over the two and a half years (in other words – lots of patting themselves on the back).

Following that, they spent about an hour listening to local officials and public comments (which echoed nearly 4,000 comments online and via in-person testimony from 232 people at its five public meetings across Colorado in January and February) that were overwhelmingly against wolf restoration in Colorado.

Many of today’s public comments focused on recommendations to postpone approval until Section 10(j) is in place.  Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 10(j) provides the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service authority to designate populations of listed species as “experimental.” When designating a population as experimental the Service must determine whether the population is “essential” to the survival of the species (i.e., the species will go extinct without the reintroduction of this population) or “non-essential” (i.e., the reintroduced population will contribute to restoring the species, but its recovery can be achieved without the population). Even as you read this, A group of Colorado lawmakers are attempting to slow the wolf reintroduction plan by introducing a bill that would designate the predators “experimental.”  This experimental population designation would delay the planned Colorado reintroductions while all the details are worked out.

But not to be swayed by these public comments and the discussion on 10(j), the Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan. They concluded with a great deal of time spent congratulating each other followed by a pre-planned call from Governor Polis further congratulating them all on what they had done. His pre-planned call underscored the feeling that today’s perfunctory vote was predetermined and gave Polis exactly what he wanted. Of course, he appointed the Commissioners, who oversaw the development of the plan and approved it giving the whole process the feeling of a self-licking ice cream cone.

Now, as hunters, it seems our only chance to slow the impact of wolves on our state’s wildlife populations (that are already suffering from an ongoing record setting tough winter) is for lawmakers to approve 10(j) and at least slow the process.

Afterthought: At this point no one even knows where the wolves will be coming from as the Governor of Wyoming as well as other surrounding states don’t support the re-introduction of wolves into Colorado and will not allow any wolves to be transported from their states into Colorado. So as Bill Murray said in Caddyshack, “So I Got That Goin’ For Me, which is Nice.

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